Genetically Informed Antinatalism

The position of genetic antinatalism emerges in consideration of the mass of suffering which has sedimented, over hundreds of millions of years, in our genetic constitution. The history of living beings on earth is less “a success story culminating in the human being” than it is a blindly self-perpetuating tragic puppet-show – interrupted only by the song of the birds – the marionettes of which, held on ever looser strings, have attained only at the stage of their evolving into human beings the possibility of taking into their own hands the direction of this tragic spectacle. Although small parts of this genetic constitution are already billions of years old, our “heritage” in this respect is full of inherited ills and evils. Far from our present genetic constitution being one which has matured away its faults, it remains still today a product of chance with entirely uncertain consequences wherever human beings beget other human beings.

It would be possible to recount the history of living beings on earth as the unsupervised macro-experiment of an unknown Demiurge: an experiment whose defining limits are so hazily defined that an “ethics board” composed of extra-terrestrials would doubtless recommend that it be discontinued. This is also the view of the author of the following lines, who advocates indeed not antinatalism but rather a repairing of this genetic heritage productive of so much suffering by means of bio-technical optimization:

“Our evolution has come at a tremendous cost. They say history is written by the victors – well, our genome is a record of victories, of the experiments that succeeded or least didn’t kill our ancestors. We are the descendants of a long line of lottery winners, a lottery in which the prize was producing offspring that survived long enough to reproduce themselves. Along the way, there were uncountable failures, with trillions of animals dying often horrible deaths.

Our genome is far from a perfectly honed, finished product. Rather, it has been crudely patched together from the detritus of genetic accidents and the remains of ancient parasites. It is the product of the kind of crazy, uncontrolled experimentation that would be rejected out of hand by any ethics board. And this process continues to this day – go to any hospital and you’ll probably find children dying of horrible genetic diseases. But not as many are dying as would have happened in the past. Thanks to methods such as embryo screening, we are starting to take control of the evolution of the human genome. A new era is dawning.” (New Scientist, 15th September 2012, p. 35)

The question arises nonetheless of whether a morally better era really will begin as a consequence of this illumination and improvement of our genetic heritage, since human beings remain products also of their social circumstances. The programme of a genetic optimization concedes, indeed, the lottery-like character of large areas of our Conditio in/humana but appears at the same time to be a last bastion established against antinatalism, or a strategy of flight from this latter.

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